By Utsav Gandhi, IIT News
One of the many perks of being a student is to be able to attend networking events in our backyard of Chicago’s thriving entrepreneurial scene; on a deeply discounted or free basis. One of these many opportunities is the Chicago Council on Science and Technology’s periodic programs, seminar and discussion series. Established in 2007 to “educate, engage and advocate an increased public understanding of science and technology’s impact on society”, the Council brings together some of the most dynamic communities in the Chicagoland area; including universities, research and development centers as well as industry experts to talk about scientific developments. On September 10th, 2013 the entrepreneurship hub of 1871 in Merchandise Mart hosted “The Landscape of Techpark Innovation;” an interactive discussion on incubators – and how these entrepreneurial idea factories could prove to be keys to America’s economic progress. The panel consisted of Kapila Viges, Director of EnterpriseWorks Chicago at the University of Illinois; Mr. David Baker, Vice President for External Affairs at IIT; Steve Collens, Senior Vice President at The Pritzker Group and one of the premier thinkers behind 1871; and John Flavin, Executive Director at Chicago Innovation Mentors. The Moderator was Jim O’Connor Jr., Managing Director MVC Capital and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.
Mr. Collens spoke briefly about the history of 1871 – an entrepreneurship hub for over 220 companies, with mostly web-based startups using the space to collaborate and grow. Mr. Baker spoke about a university’s mission to support economic development in the surrounding community, and how IIT has essentially transformed the Bronzeville landscape with the establishment of IITRI (the IIT Research Institute in Tech Park, which hosts 26 companies and over 300 employees engaged in some profoundly interesting research) and the Idea Shop, among other things. Mr. Flavin spoke about the Chicago Innovation Mentors, a team-based mentoring system based off MIT’s support groups, and how UIC, Northwestern University, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Abbott Industries, among other partners, have come together to connect entrepreneurs to funding, partners, talent and mentorship – playing a firm role in establishing Chicago as one of the “Top 10 cities to start a digital tech business”. The panel fielded some tough questions from the audience about the future of technology based entrepreneurship in Chicago – only 10% of startups succeed within five years; so universities and R&D labs play a major role in providing mentorship to faculty, students and other invested members.
1871 has valuable office space available to IIT students wishing to start a business of their own and connect with like-minded peers from other Chicagoland universities as well as mentoring from Chicago’s most dynamic brains. Students wishing to learn more about this should contact Nik Rokop, Director of the Knapp Entrepreneurship Center at the Stuart School of Business, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Becoming a student member has valuable perks – besides a more informed perspective on scientific and technological innovations happening around the world as we speak, attending these events also gives you a chance to network with established stalwarts in academia and industry. Visit c2st.org/membership for more information.